Nov 6, 2010

Palle di Riso ~ Fried Rice Balls

While forced to cope with capricious skin, summer crushes and wild hormonal hurricanes, my Positano teen posse and I would often sneak into the Buca di Bacco kitchen at 10 a.m. while chefs were just beginning their morning shift, and order dozens to go. We would pack our fried goods and dash off to the pier where someone’s motorboat was always ready to take us out to sea for a swim. Hours later–exhausted after diving competitions, snorkeling, trolling for scorpion fish, messy water polo matches and lazy sunbathing in the silence of a secluded cove–wolfing down our sun-warmed palle di riso was the best part of the day.


In Sicily they’re called arancine, and quite a complex architecture of a snack. Pear-shaped and featuring elaborate fillings, the classic breaded and deep fried rice balls the size of a fist, traditionally have meat ragù, mushrooms and stewed peas in their filling. In other parts of Italy, similar flavor bombs–according to geographical area and assorted filling–go by different monikers: supplì (in Rome) are tomato-flavored and bullet shaped croquettes with a heart of mozzarella; arancini di riso are almost always creamy saffron risotto dome-shaped pucks, or round like oranges (the noun arancino means, small orange). Exotic new fillings in the rice mixture may include the likes of chopped porchetta, a pecorino and pepper mix, and even squid ink.

Palle di Riso–childhood lexicon–are the signature piece of Italian Fritto Misto all’Italiana–a sumptuous mixed vegetarian fried platter. Honoring tradition, I still prepare them according to the long-established Buca di Bacco recipe handed down by chef Andrea Ruggiero himself. I serve them along with a sauceboat of hearty homemade tomato sauce, and three in each plate: a meal.


500 gr (1.1 lb) Arborio rice
100 gr (1/2 cup) freshly grated Parmigiano or aged Provolone
300 gr (1 1/2 cups) mozzarella, finely chopped
5 eggs
A packet of saffron, dissolved in 1 fl oz of hot water
Breadcrumbs, toasted
A fistful of polenta (cornmeal)
Flour for dredging
Oil for frying
Salt


Combine the chopped mozzarella and a fistful of the grated cheese, and set aside.

Boil the rice in lots of lightly salted water, until it reaches the al dente stage. Drain and transfer to a bowl. Let it cool for 10 minutes, then season it with the remaining cheese, 2 lightly beaten eggs, and the diluted saffron. Mix well and let the thick mixture cool some more.

To make a rice ball, take a heaping tablespoon of rice and flatten it out against the palm of your hand, cupping it to make a hollow. Fill the hollow with a tablespoon of the mozzarella mixture and cover the filling with a little more rice, shaping the ball into an orange. Roll it in flour and repeat the ball-making process, until all the rice is used up.

Beat the remaining 3 eggs, season with a pinch of salt, and dip the balls in them. Combine the cornmeal and breadcrumbs and roll the eggy balls in the mixture, coating them well. Fry the palle in hot oil, until golden. Drain well on a paper towel, and serve them hot with your basic tomato sauce for some serious dipping.

Image © stefaniav

Trivia:
In Rome, supplì are often described as "al telefono" – or, on the phone; do you know why? Because when you bite into a proper supplì, the mozzarella should string out like a telephone line. The advent of cordless phones has made this old way of saying sadly obsolete.

28 comments:

  1. They look scrumptious. I do applaud your culinary skills. Always hard to find a good rice........ball! ROFL

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  2. wow lola...these sound great...and so does all that fun your teen passe had...smiles.

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  3. Lisa~
    Always great to hear you howl with laughter!

    ~~~~~~~

    Brian~
    Thank you. We did indeed make each day count. I wonder where all that energy has gone...

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  4. I can just see you and your posse, spending the day on the water, tiring yourself and savoring these fried balls of rice, among smiles, wind and water and sails.

    You brought it all together, a perfect day on the Mediterrenean Sea.

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  5. I'm beginning to think I must be a masochist. Every time I see a new post is up here, I can't resist coming to look at the wondrous delicacies on display ... but then I go away starving and frustrated that I can't taste them immediately, but will have to wait until an excursion can be organised to a good italian restaurant, or even better, to Italy... Ah, you dish out cruel and unusual and delicious looking punishment Lola !
    :-)
    And I can't thank you enough...
    :-)

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  6. these are great..I actually bought some in Boston and took them back home to Pennsylvania....wish I had bought more but maybe will try to make them..... nice post !!

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  7. Rosaria~
    Grazie! Yes, those were indeed perfect days...

    ~~~~~~~

    Owen~
    What a wonderful comment, thank you! I must confess, I love being a nosh-tease!

    ~~~~~~~

    NYC, Style & Cannoli~
    Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment! The recipe sounds complex, but it's actually quite easy... and a great way of recycling risotto leftovers!

    Happy cooking

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  8. Love the explanation about the telephone line. Adding you to the list of blogs I'm following. Enjoying your photography very much.

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  9. Thank you for posting these. I always stay away from the arancine, because they seem too complicated for a leftover dish:) B ut this is doable, and can make a great, light meal (nobody in my family has to worry about their weight, except for husband - majority rules:)
    I love reading about your stories.
    My childhood and adolescence took me to the other side of the Adriatic sea every year and I can relate:)
    Greetings from California!

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  10. Oh, my, those just look so good! My mother's mother was from Naples, but we have nothing like this in our family food tradition. I am going to try it soon. Thank you!

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  11. David~
    I am honored to be in such worthy company, thank you!
    And photography compliments coming from you? Weeeee!!!!

    ~~~~~~~

    Lana~
    I'm happy you will be making my arancini, please write back to let me know how they turned out, OK?

    ~~~~~~~

    Serene~
    The saffron risotto filling implies some sort of Northern Italian origin, but I've learned to enjoy these in the South. Then again Italy is so tiny...

    Hugs and happy cooking

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  12. Ah, Rome days, on the back of a Vespa going to the rosticceria for a brown bag of supplì. Thank you, as ever.

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  13. Your Positano teen-hood sounds so much better than my Berkeley teen-hood (and that wasn't bad either)! Motor boats, warm water for swimming, and Palle di Riso were in short supply. At least in my circles.

    I'd love to be eating them in Italy, but feel pretty lucky to be able to get delicious arancine here in Portland at Garden State--one of my favorite local food carts.

    What kind of oil do you use for frying? And how deep?

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  14. Anglichanka~
    Thank *you* for your lovely comment!

    ~~~~~~~

    Giovanna~
    Teen-hood in Berkeley sounds super!
    I use vegetable oil, and the deeper the better. I use a wok...

    Happy frying!

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  15. Definitely a salve for the teen woes. It's hard to find some good ones here and I have been shy about making them but that may change. And the teen woes do clear... as does the skin and the surges. And you are left with quite respectable,loving adults!

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  16. Mmmmmmm. I can imagine what a treat those must have been for young folks who had a full day behind them.

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  17. Delicious :) I just love your description of the Positano posse I probably even saw you, or similar groups. Happy Memories. Especially as today the torrential rain is beating against the house as I type!

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  18. Oh they sound lovely and fattening, listen to your advice, the deeper the better ... but I`d love to try them. Your stories along with the recipes are always such a treat, Lola!
    Will you celebrate Thanksgiving in Rome?

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  19. Caludia~
    I really don't miss or regret my teen years, I actually loved it, hormones and all.

    ~~~~~~~

    Jim~
    They're great on lazy days too! ;)

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    Linda~
    I saw downpour today as I was working (fortunately not outside this time!). I had to resort to thinking beachy thoughts to lift my mood (I hate the rain). I know for a fact that our paths have crossed before, I'm a firm believer in syncronicity!

    ~~~~~~~

    Geli~
    Thank you, they are delightfully fattening, yes.
    I will indeed like very year celebrate Thanksgiving in Rome, cooking with my mom and sister, and Little E who is becoming quite the expert helper... ;)

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  20. so delicious. Love the telephone tidbit.

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  21. Theresa~
    Smiles... happy you enjoyed. Ciao

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  22. Syncronicity, love it, lets hope it brings us together in reality one day then.

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  23. Linda~
    It will, I know it.
    How's the autumn/winter orto coming along??

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  24. It is not brilliant this year but we have a few tomatoes still, lettuce, other green stuff and some late planting of peas. Did you hear about our disastrous olive harvest :(
    By the way I am longer going to subscribe to comments I cannot keep up with my inbox!!

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  25. Linda~
    Oh no, disastrous?? What a pity. My Tuscan friends are pressing now, and I'm going up to buy our yearly stash this weekend.
    I've had to cut down on blohghopping too, for the same reasons...

    Hugs

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  26. The only problem is I will probably miss your kind responses here unless I remember to pop back. Just not enough hours in the day. I hope this years olive oil is good, I love that first tasting experience.

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  27. I have had these before but never thought about making them at home. Now I totally want to!!

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  28. i really love to eat rice ball, i want to have a try for Italian rice ball.

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